By Elysse James
With the pandemic raging on into the winter, Capistrano Unified School District and Hoag have partnered to provide tips, suggestions, and mental health support to the entire CUSD community during these difficult times. Capistrano Unified counselors are also available to help. Click here to contact a CUSD counselor.
On Dec. 15 via Zoom, Dr. Kayla Ramsey of the Hoag Medical Group San Clemente office spoke about preventative health care and ways to make healthy lifestyle changes that stick.
Previously, Hoag Hospital experts shared strategies that parents can use to support their children’s emotional and mental health during an October webinar with Hoag’s ASPIRE program (After School Programs for Interventions and Resiliency Education) featuring Dr. Sina Safahieh, a child psychiatrist who oversees a Hoag Hospital program specializing in mental health treatment of adolescents; licensed marriage and family therapist April Sutherland; and licensed marriage and family therapist Celia Quinlivan.
Hoag and CUSD held a question-and-answer session on teen mental health in May that addressed ways to support young people experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, grief, and a sense of loss during the pandemic. The event featured Hoag marriage and family therapist and ASPIRE clinical program manager Prerna Rao, Dr. Safahieh, and marriage and family therapist Ammar Altowaiji.
“A situation like this has really put our resiliency as human beings to the test,” Rao said during the webinar. “For the parents, you really are doing the best that you can… Don’t be too hard on yourself.”
The Hoag partnership kicked off in 2019-20 with an event on gaming addition, social media and mental wellness held in person at Capistrano Valley High School with a panel of Hoag teen mental health experts from the ASPIRE program.
In another in-person event, Dr. David Sack led a discussion with parents on how to approach the topics of self-harm and suicide with their children, warning signs to look for, and resources available to families.
“The most effective way to prevent suicide is to identify those people in our community who are at increased risk and then help those individuals get the counseling and treatment they need. More than half of all people who commit suicide have never been in treatment. This tells us that if a person begins therapy signs of distress and thoughts of hopelessness appear, we can intervene to prevent the worst,” Dr. Sack wrote in a CUSD Insider article in February.
Hoag and Capistrano Unified also held an in-person event in 2019 to teach parents how to identify substance abuse disorders and vaping dangers — especially important now as mental health and substance abuse issues have been rising in Orange County. The event was led by Dr. Steven Ey, the Chief of Service for Hoag Addiction Treatment Centers, and joined by Safahieh, Rao, and Hoag Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Dave Cook.